AT&T program helps Chicago teens graduate - KMSP-TV

AT&T program helps Chicago teens graduate

Updated: Apr 24, 2012 19:48 PM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

High school drop outs have very few job prospects. It's bad for them and it's bad for business, which is why one of the nation's biggest companies is investing in caps and gowns. 

The president of AT&T Illinois says the company's 'aspire' program is more than charity.

"We have a great demand for employees and we have a vested interest in insuring that students are graduating from high school prepared for college and prepared for careers," President Paul Laschiazza said.

The $100 million dollars it spent nationally over the last four years targeting students at risk of dropping out of high school, has helped young people like these at the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.

"A lot of them are coming from really troubled home environments, communities that are unsafe, and they're really looking for a fresh start and that's what we offer here at Mercy Home," Liz Mulligan, VP of Mercy Home Academy, said.

Students get more than financial assistance. AT&T does provide technology for the academic center here, but the most important tools are the thousands of AT&T employees who volunteer to personally help a kid aspire' to graduate.

"For employees, it's almost like a form of recognition to be involved in creating our future workforce," said an AT&T employee.

Father Scott Donohue is the director of mercy home. He says the partnership fits the modern mission of the mercy home, for youngsters today, staying out of trouble starts with staying in school.

"Our history goes back 125 years in the city of Chicago," Donohue said.

For the first time in decades, the national graduation rate is up. Illinois showed a zero point six percent increase from 2002 to 2009.

A tiny movement, but one in the right direction. So AT&T is rolling out aspire for another five years with more than double the funding.

Of course father Scott applauds the corporate support, but he says we all have some wealth to share.

"We have over 100 kids on that waiting list, we need mentors to step up and say ‘yeah! I want to partner with Mercy Home, I want to partner with the community, I want to partner with a family, and I want to make a difference in the life of a child'," Donohue said.

The goal is to get to a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

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